Manchester City Women: A Half Done Season
Making a Continental Cup final and the semi-finals of the Champions League is an achievement. However, there was something missing from the all-conquering team that won the league at a canter last season. They also hoisted the FA Cup that season beating Birmingham Ladies at Wembley in front of a record crowd. Add to that a Champions League semi-final in their maiden campaign.
The team has sometimes looked listless and unable to turn lots of endless possession into goals at vital moments. Nadim Nadia has been a real disappointment up front. Meanwhile, the emergence of future England star Georgia Stanway as a first-team regular has been a bonus.
Key Injuries at Bad Times
Not quite being at the races may be down to the demands of a longer season added to a European campaign. Injuries to key players like team captain Steph Houghton, Megan Campbell and new signing Pauline Bremer haven’t helped. The pre-season departures of BBC World Player of the Year Lucy Bronze to Lyon and the reliable Toni Duggan to Barcelona weakened the squad.
The reality is the demands of more regular games isn’t going away next season as the league expands. Chelsea with the same pressures managed to do the double this season as player of the season Fran Kirby played out of her skin.
Scrutiny on the Manager
There will now be some scrutiny on the future of manager Nick Cushing. His record keeps him safe for the moment. Though, he admits the demands of playing every three days has taken its toll on his squad. He is smart enough a boss to sit down and work out what he needs to do. However, the pressure to pick up trophies is now on.
The real downside of the season is that they came up just short against their rivals. Chelsea finish top of the table, while a revamped Arsenal side under Joe Montemurro pushed the Manchester City Women hard. City’s reality is that the league is more intense with more quality teams joining over the past few seasons. This means there are now three top sides vying for honours and Cushing has some close season tinkering to do.
You Can Win Things With Kids
It’s not all doom and gloom as the club’s youth policy is paying off. For example, Ellie Roebuck kept out England’s number one keeper Karen Bardsley after her mid-season injury. The consistency of youngsters Abbie McManus at the back and Keira Walsh’s coolness in midfield has seen both breakthrough into Phil Neville’s England team.
At the back Demi Stokes, Jennifer Beattie and Houghton have all been strong. Izzy Christiansen has really stepped up in midfield alongside the vastly experienced Jill Scott, with Claire Emslie catching the eye late in the season. Up front, pacey Nikita Parris has always looked dangerous with Scotland’s Jane Ross contributing important goals. Meanwhile, new signing Mel Lawley has been increasingly effective.
The club’s run to the last four of the Champions League was accomplished with ease. They came up against reigning champions Lyon producing their best performance in the home leg stifling and frustrating the French team in a pulsating goalless draw. In the away leg they fell behind to a wonderful Bronze volley. But, didn’t look like getting an equaliser all afternoon despite working hard.
Making the Continental Cup final was the high point of the season but they didn’t really get to grips with a well organised Arsenal in a 1-0 defeat.
Off the pitch, there is also much to be positive about as City have the biggest and most vocal official supporter’s club who have backed the team home and away. In addition to the hardcore, families add to the now-growing crowds. No doubt they’re attracted by the quality football free of play acting and referee badgering which bedevils the men’s game.
At a corporate level, the team is a key component of the club’s strategy for growth. It was a clear statement of intent that the women’s social media was incorporated into the club’s digital presence under the banner of ‘Same City, Same Passion’.
City Need to Respond
For a team that is full time in a league where they are still plenty of part-timers, and having access to the state of the art facilities enjoyed by the men’s team, there is a clear expectation that winning things will follow that investment.
While there is work to do, there is no need to hit the panic button just yet. Manchester City Women now have to respond to a newly competitive Super League that is the direct result of a significantly greater interest in the women’s game.
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